“If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way.”
“You’re a hater and you’re unattractive inside.”
“I hate you.”
The first sounds like a threat from a street thug. The second – a bratty teenager trying to keep in check. And the third? A five-year-old throwing a tantrum.
Chair umpire Eva Asderaki might just heed that advice the next time she does run into the muscled frame of the 1.75-metre, 68kg Serena Williams in the corridor at the US Open.
For all the American superstar got for that nasty tirade was a fine of US$2,000 from US Open tournament referee Brian Earley. For a 27-time Grand Slam champion (13 singles, 12 women’s doubles, 2 mixed doubles) who has collected over US$34 million in career winnings – including US$1.4 million after Sunday’s final loss against Samantha Stosur – US$2,000 does seem like pocket change. Nor did the initial speculation of a Grand Slam suspension materialise, as an independent review stated that William’s behavior was not a major offense under the Grand Slam’s code of conduct.
A slap on the wrist, especially after the incident at the 2009 US Open – where Williams was put on Grand Slam probation after threatening a line judge over a foot fault during her semi-final match against Kim Clijsters. She was also fined US$82,500. What she said to the lineswoman was never confirmed, but it allegedly went like this: “I swear to God, I’m f—— going to take this f—— ball and shove it down your f—— throat, you hear that? I swear to God.”
Even the famously bad tempered John “You’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” McEnroe had something to say about that then. So did tennis legend Chris Evert, who told ESPN’s SportsCenter that the fine was “like dinner for Serena Williams. When I saw the comments she made, my first impression was just stunned. I was so surprised how disrespectful she was.”
There is no doubt the hard-hitting Williams is one of the best players in the sport, and her fierce competitiveness adds a much-needed adrenaline boost and draw to the women’s tour, which has seen a turnstile of world No.1s who have yet to stamp any dominance in recent times.
But for all her fame, fortune and greatness, Williams’ behaviour was shameful, and disrespectful to her opponent Stosur, the umpire, the sport, and fans at the Arthur Ashe Stadium. Playing against Australian Stosur on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York, Williams had wanted to win the title for the city, and her fellow Americans. But Sep 11, 2011, will now be remembered for a different reason at Flushing Meadows. And the US Open’s insignificant fine will likely do little to tamper that temper of hers next time.
Yes, a hindrance call against Williams might seem uncalled for given the decibel levels of some of the shrieking players on the WTA. But a rule is a rule, and Williams knows she has to respect that.
What else can we expect from a world class player?